Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Fourth Annual Valentiny Contest!

Hooray! February is well on its way and that means it's time for Susanna Leonard Hill's Fourth Annual Valentiny Contest. The object is to write a Valentine Story for children that is 214 words or less and has a character that feels guilty.

That's a brief amount of words in which to tell a story that has a beginning, a middle, and and end; but I persisted. So thank you Susanna for hosting this event and here's my story.

valentiny writing contest 2019!





One Valentine Short (206 words)

Tabby pranced into the room tightly clutching a bag. A bag containing one valentine for each classmate.

She slipped a card into each box until she came to Janna’s. Her fingers searched the bag but came up empty. She glanced inside to be sure. 

Butterflies danced in her stomach, and she gnawed her bottom lip as she wondered what to do.

She thought about telling Janna the simple truth, but the thought made her cringe.

She thought about saying it dropped from a hole in the bag, but she knew she couldn’t lie.

She thought about hiding in the coat closet, but she hated tiny dark spaces.

Suddenly, inspiration struck.

She raced to the closet to retrieve the sucker she’d been saving for lunch. Then she grabbed some construction paper and art supplies.

Snippets of paper floated to the floor and glitter clung to every surface including her hair. But in the end, Tabby held a stunning valentine in her hand.

“That’s beautiful,” someone whispered behind her shoulder.

Tabby whirled around and handed the paper creation to Janna. “It’s for you!”

A look of joy brightened Janna’s plain pale face.

And at that moment, Tabby knew she wanted to spend recess getting to know Janna better.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Black History Month

It's Black History month! I normally read and promote people of every color all year long, but when I looked through my stack of books for review, two of them had beautiful brown girls on the cover; so it seemed appropriate to share those particular books.

The first was a board book titled In the Snow which fits both Black History month and the season since we are still in the throws of winter. It is the story of a small girl who spends the day outside enjoying the snow and snow activities with her dog. One sentence per page allows the reader and their little to take ample time discovering the details of the illustrations which are delightful.


The second was a book titled It's Great to Keep Calm. As I checked this book out, one of the librarians I am friends with told me she had recently read the book and that Keep Calm was her new mantra. In this story, Carly and her classmates are making sock puppets, and everyone takes a direction page except for her. When her sock puppet doesn't turn out as planned, she gets upset and loses her temper. But a good friend gives her advice about how to calm down and helps her make a new and proper sock puppet. This book would be a great parent and teacher resource for helping very young children deal with situations that don't turn out as expected and angry or anxious feelings.


Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me next week, same crazy time, same crazy channel. Also be sure to drop by my personal website Fun With Aileen where you will find more on reading, writing, and my very own chapter and picture books. And finally, you can find me on twitter if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Survival

Well, we survived the blizzard and the polar vortex that followed. We burnt a lot of wood in the process, but we were toasty warm. Thankfully we now seem to be on our way to warmer temperatures. I just hope they arrive gradually so not to cause flooding.

All this indoor time has left plenty of room for reading. Emily has been reading the second book in a  dystopian series, The Girl Who Dared To Stand, which she is loving as much as the Maze Runner Series. Now for anyone who knows Emily, this is a lot of book love. All her friends who have never read Maze Runner, intimately know the characters thanks to her. And the best part, there are seven books in the series, so she will be happy for a while!



The big surprise, however, came last week when my husband, Bobby, asked me to get the old classic, Papillon, from he library. In the fifteen years we've been married, he's read the Bible, newspapers, magazines, and online articles, but he's never asked me to get him a book. I know he read books before we married, I've just never seen him read one since.


And last but not least, I read a beginning reader titled A Cub in the Tub and a beginning chapter book titled Houndsley and Catina and Cousin Wagster. Don't you just love those funny, punny cat and dog names?

A Cub in the Tub is just what it sounds like, a sight word rhyming book like the kind I bought Emily when she was learning to read. So not only will your 3 to 5 year old enjoy seeing bear go from being dirty to clean, they will also be gaining those critical building blocks that will launch them into reading on their own.


And once they've started reading and want to move onto that I am so grown up chapter book reading phase, Houndsley and Catina and Cousin Wagster will be a perfect place to start. I mean come on, who doesn't love dog and cat stories with happy endings and subtle messages about friendship! And the really fun thing is that there are multiple Houndsley and Catina books from which to choose.


Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me next week, same crazy time, same crazy channel. Also be sure to drop by my personal website Fun With Aileen where you will find more on reading, writing, and my very own chapter and picture books. And finally, you can find me on twitter if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Grass is Always Greener...


Hey, all. I hope everyone had a wonderful week gone by. We've continued to have snow and very cold temperatures here in Ohio, winters that remind me of those from my childhood. Since the school we associate with for our Independent Studies had four snow days, I allowed Emily to have a few extra days off and a lighter schedule than normal on the other days. She was thrilled and it allowed me to have a little play time with my camera.









In addition, my baby girl turned 14 this past week. I look at her and ask my self how did this happen? In a blink of an eye the years seemed to pass by. And although I am proud of the person she is becoming, I do miss the child she was from time to time.


And I read. Of course I read the newspaper, the mail, several recipes, my Bible, the back matter on the book I bought Emily for her birthday, and my emails; but there's something different about reading for pleasure be it a cozy mystery, a novel, poetry, or my favorite picture books. 

This week I read a beautiful book titled Giraffe Problems. A book with a subtle but wonderful message that we are wonderfully made and should appreciate who and what we are. Edward Giraffe bemoans his long neck and does everything in his power to hide it from others. Until one day when he meets, Cyrus Turtle who admires his long neck and despises his own short neck. In the end, they come to realize each neck is just right.


Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me next week, same crazy time, same crazy channel. Also be sure to drop by my personal website Fun With Aileen where you will find more on reading, writing, and my very own chapter and picture books. And finally, you can find me on twitter if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Books and A Blizzard

This past weekend we experienced the first blizzard in a few years. Since I had a goodly supply of toilet paper, milk, and home made bread, I didn't agonize over the fact. Bobby and I spent Saturday in front of a cozy fire and we re-watched Last Holiday with Queen Latifah. I do love a good comedy with a fine leading actress. We enjoyed toasted bread with cinnamon and sugar which took me back to my childhood and the many times my mama made cinnamon/sugar toast for my brother and me.
And Emily went sledding with a friend and didn't return home for a couple of hours.




When Sunday rolled around, I woke with and idea for a story and thoughts on six main characters. You can't imagine how happy I was to know I had a note book in the bedside stand in which to write those ideas down because I would have never remembered everything. I made breakfast for everyone: spelt waffles, sausage, and Ohio maple syrup. And just when I thought the day couldn't get any better, Bobby retrieved the mail from Saturday when he out to clear the drive.



This proved especially exciting, because amongst the stack, I found a delicate flowered envelope. An envelope that held a letter from a seven year old fan from Georgia. A touching letter, it almost made my husband cry when I read it to him.


Dear Aileen Stewart:

I really enjoyed the book Cooking In Fern Valley because it included both of my passions, reading and cooking I love doing them both and your books have made me quite hungry and I have tried your recipes before and I wanted to let you know that they are quite delicious I have read Cooking in Fern Valley many times. However this time halfway through the book I suddenly had a urge to write a letter to you so I did (that is this letter you are reading right now.) Your books are quite fictional and interesting and I want to read them all but now I have an urge to go downstairs and make some scrambled eggs.

Sincerely, Lilianna Yun age 7

au revour!

Despite the lack of some punctuation, this is a most moving letter. It doesn't get better than a seven year old, with the same passions as me, loving my book. And I'm pretty sure her scrambled eggs were the bomb.

And last but not least, I read Andy and Sandy's Anything Adventure by the legendary Tomie dePaola. A perfect book for snowbound book worms, Andy and Sandy use a dress up trunk to stimulate their imaginations.Incredible imaginations and friendship abound in this story perfect for three to six year olds.


Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me next week, same crazy time, same crazy channel. Also be sure to drop by my personal website Fun With Aileen where you will find more on reading, writing, and my very own chapter and picture books. And finally, you can find me on twitter if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Soup and Sleep



This past week sent us scurrying back to school lessons. It also saw the beginning of  a five week photography course Emily is taking with her home school aid Ms. Charlie. I'm not sure she loves taking pictures as much as I do, but I hope she at least enjoys the class.

We also attended our monthly Cook Book Club meeting where the theme was soups and sandwiches. Now I don't know about you, but I absolutely love soups and sandwiches. So much in fact, that I forgot to take any pictures. Emily made my recipe for lemon poppy seed bread, and I made turkey and bacon club sandwiches with avocado spread and white chicken chili.


The Ultimate White Chicken Chili - the BEST of the BEST White Chicken Chilis! SO good and ready to eat in under 20 minutes! Rotisserie chicken, white beans, corn, green chilies, chicken broth, onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder, half-and-half, pepper jack cheese. Top with some sour cream and extra cheese. Makes a ton. Freeze leftovers for a quick meal later.
I used a recipe from The Ultimate Chicken website with a couple of substitutions. I already had two cups of cooked shredded chicken and I had heavy cream instead of half and half because I didn't want to run to the store.  I thought it was delicious especially topped with shredded cheddar cheese, but Emily told me if we were having leftover soup for dinner she would fix herself a hot-dog. One day Ms. Picky's tastes will change just like mine did, and she'll wonder why she turned her nose up to so many tasty dishes.

Over the weekend it snowed here in Ohio. It probably didn't snow here as much as some parts of the country, but I was happy to see the snow and cold that did shower us because it will mean a good maple syrup season; and I surely do love fresh maple syrup.

And last but not least, I read a book titled The Goodnight Train. I personally don't have any trouble falling to sleep, but for some reason my male cat has decided for the past several days he needs me to get up at 2 or 3:30 in the morning. To help raise me from my slumber he digs incessantly on the sliding closet doors directly beneath the master bedroom making a ruckus that could raise the dead if that were possible. But I'm getting off topic, so back to the book.



The Goodnight Train is a cute rhyming book about children being lulled to sleep on a train traveling through dreamland. The sounds and sights that fill the night as the train makes its trek will surely delight children from five to seven.

Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me next week, same crazy time, same crazy channel. Also be sure to drop by my personal website Fun With Aileen where you will find more on reading, writing, and my very own chapter and picture books. And finally, you can find me on twitter if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Possibilities

It's 2019, a New Year full of possibilities that are yet to be explored. Doesn't that just make you tingle with anticipations? Bobby, Emily, and I started 2019 by staying up till midnight and watching the ball drop. I must admit that I miss the old traditional ball and Dick Clark, but Emily was excited to drink her Orange Cream Soda and eat Jalapeno Cheetos well after her normal bedtime. She then spent the day with one of her besties.


Apparently the thought of a brand new year filled me with energy because I began cleaning out closets and cupboards like there was no tomorrow. Several garbage bags later I took a break and worked on a picture book manuscript from one of my Storystorm ideas. The New Year also brought me a new critique partner who I am excited to get to know.


And finally, I read one of the books Emily received for Christmas. The fourth in the Wollstonecraft Series, The Case of The Perilous Palace met all my expectations. I love UK author Jordan Stratford's style and the way he takes real life characters and gives them a more romantic and mysterious life, a blending of history and fiction.


The main characters Ada Lovelace and Mary Shelley, parted by Ada's overbearing grandmother, manage to reunite with the help of the princess who needs their services. Someone has stolen one of her sketch books, the sketch book that allows her to put down her feelings in a code only known to her. The thief leads the girls on a merry chase, and when caught, surprises everyone but Ada.

Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me next week, same crazy time, same crazy channel. Also be sure to drop by my personal website Fun With Aileen where you will find more on reading, writing, and my very own chapter and picture books. And finally, you can find me on twitter if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.


Monday, December 31, 2018

My Top Ten Favorite Reads of 2018

I read so many great books this year, and it took me a while to narrow down the list; but here are my Top Ten Favorite Reads of 2018.

10. The Best Mother
Cover Image

9.  Cat On The Bus

Cover Image

8.  A Different Pond

A Different Pond (Fiction Picture Books) by [Phi, Bao]

7.  Ocean Meets Sky

Ocean Meets Sky by [Fan, Terry, Fan, Eric]

6.  Read the Book Lemmings


Read the Book, Lemmings! by [Dyckman, Ame]

5.  My Pillow Keeps Moving

My Pillow Keeps Moving by [Gehl, Laura]

4.  Henry and the Yeti

Henry and the Yeti by [Ayto, Russell]

3.  Nibbles the Book Monster



2.  Night Job



1.  Hello Light House




And since it was so difficult to choose, I have to share an Honorable Mention:

Samson the Piranha Who Went To Dinner



With The New Year just around the corner, I'm looking forward to all the fantastic, funny, creative, beautifully illustrated books 2019 has to offer.

Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me next week, same crazy time, same crazy channel. Also be sure to drop by my personal website Fun With Aileen where you will find more on reading, writing, and my very own chapter and picture books. And finally, you can find me on twitter if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Books and Bakes

This past week I attended a library board meeting, helped Emily with her school work, attended Cook-book Club, and finished round one of my Cookiepalooza. As two of those things involve food, I think it would be safe to call myself a foodie as well as a literary person.

For Cook-book Club Emily prepared Oreo Truffles. Since she didn't decide what she was making until late the night before, she had to use vanilla flavored melting discs instead of chocolate because I just wasn't going to the store at that hour, and I had some leftover red discs.


I made Bacon Ranch Chicken Penne which turned out beautifully. I even made my own Alfredo sauce. If you want to try it for yourself, this is what you'll need.

Bacon Chicken Ranch Penne  🥓🐔🥘

6 slices of bacon
2 cups cooked chicken
Alfredo sauce
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1 pound penne
2 cups fresh mozzarella grated

Alfredo Sauce

2 cups chicken broth
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2- 8 ounce containers whipped cream cheese
1 TBS minced garlic
2 cups grated Parmesan
Fresh cracked black pepper

In a large stock pot prepare sauce by adding broth, cream, garlic, and cream cheese and cook over medium heat whisking until smooth. When smooth, reduce heat to low/medium and add Parmesan. Whisk and allow to cook about five minutes. Remove from heat and add pepper to taste. Set sauce aside.

Next, cook bacon and set aside. In a large bowl, add penne, chicken which has been shredded, 4 cups of sauce, and ranch dressing. Let mixture set at least 15 to 20 minutes. The noodles will have absorbed most of the sauce, so before you put the mixture in a 9 x 13 pan, add an additional 2 cups of sauce. Reserve the rest of the sauce which can be used when reheating leftover casserole. Top dish crumbled bacon and mozzarella and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.

I can't believe after all that effort I forgot to take a picture of my casserole, but there you have it. I did however, take several of the finished cookie tray that will be accompanying my husband, Bobby, to work.






But lest you think all I did attend meetings, home-school, and bake, never fear. I managed to read two picture books this week as well. There was Dear Girl which is an encouragement of love from a mother to her daughter letting her know it's acceptable to be herself whether that means being pink and sparkly or splattered with mud. It was also an encouragement for girls to appreciate who they are and what makes them unique something I try to teach my daughter.


And there was Douglas You're a Genius. Douglas  the Dog and his faithful companion Nancy loose a ball through a hole in the fence. When the ball rolls back to their side, they wonder just who sent it back. To find out, they try all kinds of crazy ideas thought of by Nancy, Unfortunately, none of Nancy's ideas work. Finally Douglas convinces Nancy to give his idea a try and they ultimately find out who's on the other side. Full of fun and surprises, this book is sure to please almost as much as that casserole I made!


Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me next week, same crazy time, same crazy channel. Also be sure to drop by my personal website Fun With Aileen where you will find more on reading, writing, and my very own chapter and picture books. And finally, you can find me on twitter if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.












Monday, December 10, 2018

Creating

I have always loved to create both crafty and food items. So this week, it will come as no surprise that I was in a creative mood. I finished up a basket I've been working on for a gift exchange. I then filled it with kitchen items which I hope my Cook Book Club recipient will enjoy.


I've also continued with my cookie baking project. My goal is to bake one or two types of cookies every few days. I freeze them as I go and when Christmas is close, I'll take them all out and decorate those that need decorated. But sometimes as happens when a person is creating, an epic fail occurs. My epic fail was in the form of Coconut Macaroons. I attempted to make them and followed the directions religiously, but alas what I ended up with was a clumpy coconut pancake instead of a crispy cookie.
How Macaroons Should Look

How My Macaroons Looked
Oh well. There are so many other cookies I'm great at creating, so the "Cookiepalooza" will continue.

This weeks my book choices were also about creating. My first read, How to Knit a Monster, from 2014, led me on a merry adventure with Ms. Gretta Goat who loved to knit.

After Mean Mrs. Sheep criticizes Gretta's knitting skills her knitting begins to take on a life of it's own in the form of a wolf that eats Mrs. Sheep, a tiger that eats the wolf, and finally a monster that eats the tiger. But Gretta is a smart goat and knits her way right out of the predicament her knitting created. But be sure to pay careful attention to the last illustration which indicates he predicament might not be over.


The second book, How To Build A Hug, filled me with wonder as it was one of my favorite types of picture book, a biographical picture book. And this book was about Dr. Temple Grandin.

As a child growing up with autism in an era where little was known about the subject, Temple Grandin did her best to cope. With the support and encouragement of her family, Temple drew, painted, created, and read about inventors and their inventions. And all of that creating helped her to invent a contraption that helped her feel what a hug was like when the real thing overwhelmed her senses. This book would make a great classroom read helping classmates to understand what autistic peers might be going through.


Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me next week, same crazy time, same crazy channel. Also be sure to drop by my personal website Fun With Aileen where you will find more on reading, writing, and my very own chapter and picture books. And finally, you can find me on twitter if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.